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What is a Blood Pressure Monitor?

A home blood pressure monitor is useful for tracking blood pressure.
A medical professional taking a person's blood pressure.
A doctor checking a patient's blood pressure.
Article Details
  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 05 April 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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A blood pressure monitor can be one of many devices used to measure blood pressure. Most people who visit doctors or are hospitalized are familiar with various types of monitors. They can be simple cuffs with a hand pump that gradually inflates the cuff. Medical workers may then use a stethoscope and check the readout on the dial as the cuff deflates to measure blood pressure. More often, doctors and hospitals have turned to monitors that are powered by electricity and give digital readouts of systolic (upper number) and diastolic (lower number) pressure.

Most types of the blood pressure monitor have at least two components. They feature the cuff, which may wrap around the arm, wrist or even a finger, and they have a display or dial to read blood pressure numbers. Additional components can include connections between the cuff and an inflating device, and possibly a stethoscope.

Many people are familiar with these monitors because they use them at home too. There are numerous blood pressure monitor styles available for sale. Doctors may recommend monitoring blood pressure if a person has suspected high blood pressure or is at risk for high blood pressure due to other conditions like pregnancy with a history of hypertension.

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Home monitors function much in the same way as do hospital or doctor’s office monitors, but they are usually far less expensive. They may not be quite as accurate, and some doctors will recommend that patients purchase a specific brand of monitor, or at least ask patients to get a monitor that fits around the arm instead of measuring pressure around a finger or wrist. Arm monitors do seem more accurate than do blood pressure machines of other types.

Even when a person is being treated for high blood pressure, they may need to use a home blood pressure monitor. Recording pressure numbers several times a day can determine if medications or other treatments are adequately addressing hypertension. Some doctors do prefer that patients have their pressure monitored in doctor’s offices instead, but this isn’t always feasible and can be inconvenient.

Sometimes doctors will request that patients wear an ambulatory blood pressure monitor. This may be suggested if a physician wants to closely follow blood pressure patterns for the day or if they believe that a person only has high blood pressure when they’re in a doctor’s office. The latter may be called white coat hypertension, and diagnosing it can help avoid treating patients who only exhibit high pressure because doctors or medical facilities make them extremely nervous.

An ambulatory blood pressure monitor is attached to a special recording system and takes blood pressure about once every 30 minutes. People usually wear them for 24 hours and may have a sheet of paper on which to record any events occurring just before pressure was taken. The device is called ambulatory because most people can pursue normal activities while wearing it. After the 24-hour period, data from the blood pressure monitor can be analyzed to discover if hypertension exists and/or the extent of hypertension. This analysis can then help to determine treatment.

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